NFL Passes New Safety Rules to Further Protect Defenseless Players

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NFL Passes New Safety Rules to Further Protect Defenseless Players ORLANDO, Fla. — NFL players should be safer during games thanks to several rules changes passed at the league meetings. They also might be playing longer in regular-season overtimes.

The NFL passed rules Wednesday to further protect defenseless players, including ball carriers who lose their helmet during a play. Seven of eight overall rules proposals were adopted, then several owners said they also expect the modified overtime for the playoffs that passed the previous day to be revisited in May to include the regular season.

"It's a better system, so why not have a better system every game?" Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said of expanding the new OT rule that allows a team losing the coin toss and allowing a field goal on the first series to then get a possession.

New York Giants owner John Mara added he expects discussion and possibly a vote on using the new OT system to occur at the owners meetings in Dallas in May. The change was proposed only for the postseason by the competition committee and was passed 28-4 Tuesday.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league wants to meet with the players and the networks for some input and further discuss the ramifications of expanding the OT change.

"We had a proposal for the postseason, we passed that with the understanding that it'll be discussed for the regular season," he said.

Goodell also mentioned scheduling only intradivision games on the final weekend of the season, and placing many such games in Week 16, as well. He said at the end of last season he was concerned about teams not playing their regulars after clinching titles and is hopeful such scheduling would help avoid that.

The 2010 schedule will be released in April.

The key rules change for player safety bars a defenseless player from being hit in the head or neck area by an opponent who launches himself and uses his helmet, shoulder or forearm to make contact. Previously, those kind of tackles were banned against receivers who couldn't protect themselves, but now it will apply to everyone.

"These are very specific to very vulnerable moments in the game," Lurie said. "There's no reason not to protect these players. There's a history of potentially serious injuries in these types of collisions."

NFL rules also will now echo those in college when a player running with the ball loses his helmet. The whistle will blow immediately and the ball will be placed at the "progress spot" where the helmet came off.

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